The Best City Guide to Historic Newport, RI
Historic Newport has always been thought of as the playground of old moneyed socialites who were viewed as American Royalty in the Gilded Age. True enough, the mansions that line Bellevue Avenue are jaw-dropping, but there is so much more to Newport than just that. Music festivals, sailing, sporting and cultural events keeps this all year round community in constant motion. Fall is the best time to experience Newport. The summer crowds are gone and the locals will be hanging with you side by side in what is considered by so many to be their favorite season.
For more things to do, check out our Pinterest Board!
If you have one day to be introduced to Newport, from an insider’s point of view, this is how it might go.
229 Spring Street, Newport, RI 401-847-3540
Website: Franklin Spa
There are few great breakfast places in Newport, but the locals frequent Franklin Spa located off the corner of Spring Street and Memorial Blvd. This is not what you’d think of as the poshest place to start your day, but you’ll find yacht and shop owners dining side by side here. Their specialties: Eggs Benedict done every which way with a choice of lobster, smoked salmon, veggies, hot sausage, pork or bacon. Their stuffed pancakes and oversized omelettes should not be overlooked at this mid century diner which actually hasn’t changed since the ’50’s. This is the real deal.
Not to Miss: Their Brenton Reef Benedict
Walk: After Breakfast
Easton’s (First) Beach
Website: Cliff Walk
You might need to walk off that breakfast. Hop in the car for a short ride east down Memorial Boulevard to Cliff Walk whose entrance is located adjacent to Easton’s Beach, or as the locals call it, First Beach. Parking is available on the road or at the beach parking lot. Put your sneakers on and enjoy the trail that will offer you unobstructed views of the ocean on one side and magnificent mansions that line the walk on the other. It is a bit of a hike, over 2 1/2 hours end to end, but you can get off part way through for a tour of The Breakers, the largest of the Newport mansions built by the Vanderbilt family.
Not to Miss: The views. Bring your camera.
Museums: Open at 9:00 a.m.
The Newport Mansions
Tickets available at each house
If you didn’t stop at The Breakers on your walk, it is a short drive away back up Memorial Boulevard with a left on Bellevue Avenue, one of the most awe inspiring mansion laden streets in the country. Established in the second half of the 1800’s extravagant ‘summer cottages’ designed by some of the most notable architects of the period popped up along the avenue one by one. Society families would come to Newport for the summer season to enjoy the fine New England weather and sail, party and entertain each other.
Start with The Preservation Society of Newport County’s offering of 10 different locations; The Breakers (a must) and select another – Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Rosecliff, Marble House, Kingscote, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House or Chepstow.
Not to Miss: Until January 3rd, along with a tour of Rosecliff you can see their exhibit, Newport and Her Southern Sister; Three Centuries of Art and Design.
Newport Restoration Foundation
Website: Newport Restoration Foundation
Not to be neglected, Doris Duke’s preservation group, Newport Restoration Foundation, offers an insight into Newport on all different levels. Her home, Rough Point is one of the most prestigious ocean front grand homes which highlights Miss Duke’s extraordinary life and her huge part in saving colonial Newport’s historic buildings and culture. The Whitehorne House features Miss Duke’s collection of some of the best examples of New England American Federal furniture.
Not a Mansion Kind-of-Person?
Newport Car Museum
Website: Newport Car Museum
From the 1950s to the present, separate exhibits of Ford/Shelby Cars, Corvettes, World Cars, Fin Cars and Chrysler Mopars have been carefully curated to appeal to men as well as women and to all generations, from grandparents to parents to children.
Tennis Hall of Fame
Website: Tennis Hall of Fame
Tennis fan or not, the museum is located at the Newport Casino, which was originally built in 1880 as a social club and is considered one of the finest examples of Shingle Styled buildings designed by the renown firm of McKim, Mead and White. The Museum represents an amazing history of the game, you will also learn about Newport life during the Gilded Age.
The Black Pearl
Bannister’s Wharf off of America’s Cup Boulevard
Website: The Black Pearl
Sure there are tons of places to grab a bite to eat, but the recommendation here is to treat yourselves to what has repeatedly been voted the best New England Clam Chowder in Rhode Island if not all of New England.
Just Outside of Town: Pick-Your-Own and Vineyards!
You might have a lapse in your schedule to explore the outskirts of town where the rest of the people really live. Take a drive passed First Beach, St. George’s Boarding School and Sachuest Beach (Second Beach to the locals) where all of the surfing and beach walking takes place. Make your way to Sweet Berry Farm, where you can take the kids apple and raspberry picking now with pumpkins ready in October. They sell what they grow and carry other local produce as well keeping with the ‘fresh and local’ mantra that is so prevalent on this island.. If you didn’t get a chance to stop at the Black Pearl for lunch, they have yummy sandwiches and soup here.
Keep on going and you’ll find Rocky Brook Apple Orchard, only open on Fall weekends where you can pick-your-own from 60 different varieties of apple trees.
Just a few yards down the road you’ll be turning into Greenvale Vineyards where you can enjoy a wine tasting. When you finish sampling there, move a short distance away to Newport Vineyards for another wine tasting. Note their Ice Wine – unusual and extraordinary!
Not to Miss: At Greenvale Vineyards and nearby Newport Vineyards there is live Jazz and wine tastings. Check their sites for the schedules.
Sailing: 12:30 or 4:00
Website: 12 Meter Charters
You can park at The Mooring parking lot to find the launch that will take you to an America’s Cup 12 Meter Yacht with 12 Meter Charters for a two hour afternoon sail. You will see all of the key points of Newport Harbor from the water starting at the Rose Island Lighthouse over to Hammersmith Farms, the former summer home to Jacqueline Kennedy’s family. You will experience what it is like to sail on one of the fastest racing yachts ever made. The captain will ask if you want to take the helm. What would you say?
Happily exhausted whether you’ve sailed or gone apple picking, it is time to indulge in some local therapy. Shopping, pampering or both?
Website: Discover Newport
Shopping is easy – Starting at the wharves, you can meander here first then head on down to lower Thames Street where many of the fun boutique shops are still opened until Christmas. If you are a shopper, you will love Newport!
Restaurant Week in Newport is held in the Fall an Spring with some of the BEST restaurants offering $16 lunches and $35 dinners.
Meanwhile if you are visiting at another time, yes you need reservations for dining anywhere in Newport on the weekend!
Website: One Pelham East
The Pelham (270 Thames Street) and its neighbor, Newport Blues Cafe (286 Thames Street) are just about the only two after dinner spots for a nightcap and music. From Dueling Pianos, hot new bands to great local ones, stop by here and end your day with a song in your heart.
If you are staying in town, walk on down to Bowen Wharf’s to where owners, Jeff and Geremie Callaghan will welcome you personally at Fluke Wine, Bar & Kitchen where the food is fresh, local and amazing and they boast a killer artisanal wine list and cocktail menu. Another favorite is The Moorings whose summertime waterfront dining is a main draw and their roaring fireplace welcomes hungry visitors on a cool night. They offer a sophisticated American seafood and steak menu which never fails to please.
Down on Thames and off the beaten track you can find many restaurants. Want the best seafood in town? Scales & Shells is your place and this is a no-reservation cash restaurant. WELL worth the wait!
On the higher end of the spectrum, one of the few places you’d like to dress for the evening would be at Castle Hill Inn. Set in a meticulous Victorian mansion, the ambiance is reminiscent of old world Newport, the food is five star and it is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group. If you are going to splurge, this is where you should do it.
Facts You Didn’t Know About Newport, Rhode Island
- Originally founded in 1639, Newport has one of the highest concentrations of colonial homes in the country.
- Newport is, in fact, located on an island, Aquidneck Island
- Fort Adams located at the mouth of Newport Harbor, is the only fort in the United States never to have been engaged in a war
- Newport was a favorite residence for many pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries
- Newport was the center of the New England Slave Trade, the “Triangle Trade” where slaves produced sugar and molasses in the Caribbean which was shipped to Rhode Island where it was made into rum at one of Rhode Island’s 30 distilleries and shipped to Africa to trade for more slaves
- Newport is home to the Naval War College
- Newport boasts the “summer white houses” to Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F Kennedy
- John and Jacqueline Kennedy were married at St Mary’s Church in Newport